WEST GLACIER – Obviously, it’s not the busiest time of year at Glacier National Park, which closed Tuesday.

But tens of thousands of people still usually visit Glacier every October – part of an average of 750,000 people who normally enter America’s national parks every day during the shoulder month.

The effect of park closures on businesses that rely on that tourist trade was hammered home during a telephone news conference held Tuesday by the National Parks Conservation Association.

Glacier, and the other 400 national parks in the United States, put up the “closed” sign when bickering political parties in Congress were unable to reach an agreement to fund the federal government as they argue over the already enacted Obamacare.

“It’s really sad, and irresponsible, that the world’s richest nation cannot protect its greatest assets,” Phil Francis, former superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, said. “It’s disheartening to me to see this on top of so many budget cuts. It’s like closing a shopping mall at Christmastime. This is a time businesses near national parks either make it for the year, or don’t.”

That’s truer for some than others. Fall is a big draw in national parks and monuments such as Acadia and Great Smoky Mountains (for the foliage), Grand Canyon and Death Valley (for the cooler weather) and Civil War sites (which get busloads of students).

Christopher Fogg, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce near Acadia National Park in Maine, said Acadia usually draws 300,000 visitors during the month of October, five to six times what Glacier normally sees.

The sequestration imposed by Congress this spring, followed by the partial federal government shutdown this fall, will take their toll on the local economy, according to Fogg.

“It’s been a particularly difficult year in Bar Harbor,” Fogg said. “We had to keep the park loop road closed from April into May (because of sequestration), and business was down 30 percent. Now this. It’s a beautiful day here today, we have two cruise ships in, and the park is closed. It means jobs and less income for working families.”

***

Bill Berg, president of the Greater Gardiner Community Council just outside Yellowstone National Park, called the shutdown “a flaky situation” where park concessionaires have to decide whether to retain their workforce without having any idea how long Congress will refuse to reach a solution.

“It’s bad for visitors, bad for locals, bad for employers and bad for business,” Berg said of the park closure. “For concessionaires, it’s especially tricky. This is a busy time of the season for some of them.”

Theresa Pierno, acting president of the National Parks Conservation Association, said her organization had estimated the cost to communities located near national parks at $30 million per day – or about $75,000 a day per national park.

In Montana, the closures include Glacier and Yellowstone parks, the National Bison Range, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and Big Hole National Battlefield, the Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, interpretive centers at Fort Peck, Pompey’s Pillar and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, plus campgrounds and recreation sites on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock decried the shutdowns.

“We can have legitimate differences over public policy,” Bullock said, “but it’s embarrassing that the greatest country in the world would shut down our government based on nothing more than political brinkmanship.”

The Montana Office of Tourism said it would work to “direct our visitors to Montana’s more off-the-beaten path experiences, locales and charming and inviting towns” in the wake of the closure of the two national parks that drive the state’s tourism economy.

Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or by email at vdevlin@missoulian.com.

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(14) comments

Drummer
Drummer

Folks don't be blind-sided by the dog and pony show being put on by Obama and the Democrats. There is a lot a stake here. Personal freedoms, the free market system, losing the best health care system in the world, loss of doctors, jobs, reduction in medical services, less research, loss of privacy,etc. etc. This is an attempt to nationalize health care, much like Hitler did in Europe. Obama and his ilk are being unreasonable, and the Rinos are assisting. There are a few brave Constitutionalists that are standing up for America, and we should all be grateful for their courage and wisdom. Don't be sheeple and just follow along. We've been given a republic......but, can we keep it?

BWO
BWO

Maybe some of you should read the actual constitution and see how a bill is actually amended after passage...all the Teabaggers have to do is offer up legislation that addresses their concerns about the Affordable HealthCare Act. Replace it with more corporate healthcare that few can afford or whatever they think is fair in their lily white world of rainbows, unicorns and black helicopters. Why is this so hard for you right wingers to understand? You lost, get over it.

Stan Reck
Stan Reck

Heh...I had to go back and read Montanamuralist's post because it made me laugh. This is an example of someone toting the party line all the way to the end. It is like saying "It isn't that hot" to someone standing in hell. The issues that the enrollment websites had yesterday are being played off as "so many people want it that it shut the servers down!". Do the Democrats think we are that stupid? Are you running the exchanges from the basement of someone's house? How can 28,000 visitors to a website shut it down? Are they running the site on a Commodore 64? Why on the first day did only a small percentage get signed up while the rest of the people reported horrible errors? It was just so popular? Oh please. You can fool some of the people some of the time but not all the people all the time. I can hardly wait for the next shilling from Montanamuralist to see how this is spun in the Democrats favor.......because they think we are all stupid.

js350454
js350454

Yes, yes we do.

lightninsam
lightninsam

Really dude, why so defensive? Do you have answers to your questions? If it wasn't first day glitches, what was it? There's 3 months to sign up. Do we smell a conspiracy theory here?

BTW-- "I had to go back and read " your first post again...I wasn't laughing, just shaking my head.

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

So while affordable care act call centers crash from the interest over health care, Daines and the other Republican clowns in Congress, and John Boehner, in a selfish and ego ridden attempt to hold on to his Speakership, hurt the very businesses their lying rhetoric says they want to help. No solutions other than to shut down the parks and the government. How big a hammer do the voters need to hit them in the head to get them to see the absolute hypocrisy of the Mr. Potter Party. If I don't get my way I will put a gun to your head no matter what the majority says....because we know better. Seems to be the argument they have used against Democrats for years. Just a clown show...

Stan Reck
Stan Reck

Oh, give us all a break. This shutdown is squarely on the Democrats shoulders. Your demigods tried to shove something down our throats and refuse to negotiate. Let's see, the park service in DC closed the WWII memorial, a memorial that is open 24/7 to the public and is only staffed part of the day. Honor flights taking WWII veterans are being turned away simply due to Democrat political posturing. Are you going to support the arrest of these veterans if they defy the Democrat's orders to shut the monument down? I didn't think so. Keep telling the lie, say it often enough and maybe enough people will believe that this isn't truly Barry throwing a tantrum. Negotiate or get the heck out of congress. I sure don't see Democrats producing bills that would fund certain parts of the Govt....all or nothing. How does it feel to be the new party of "NO"?

MobyMike
MobyMike

I heard Rush Limbaugh say that today too, Stan! (True fact)
Get an original FACT-BASED thought for once.
I also heard Daines say that they want to Negotiate. Wait, NOW they want to negotiate the ACA? After TWO election cycles, a Supreme court ruling and polls that say Don't shut down gov't?
I would be very willing to, and would ask all the democrats to, NEGOTIATE! As long as they negotiate what is on the table: THE BUDGET.
One Congressman from Michigan said on the Huckabee show today that he knows he was elected to do something, to not just "cave in" that all the elected officials shpuld not just "cave in", then he said he wanted the democrats to "cave in"...

js350454
js350454

Wrong! This shut down is 100% on the shoulders of tea part republicans and those lemmings that follow them. There was no shoving anything down anyone throat either... Lets review how our government works: The ACA was passed by both the house and senate, signed into law by our President and then tested by the supreme court! It is a LAW. It is Constitutional. It has gone through the same system our founding father created 237 years ago! Now, do not like that system? Do you want a government that disregards the principals of our funding fathers and Constitution? A government that can pick and chose which laws it will follow? Do you to support a group of school-yard-cry-baby-extremest who are willing to defy and destroy 237 years of governing tradition because they lost by popular opinion? These tea party republicans and those who follow them need a civics lesson.

onemontana
onemontana

I agree that government is a clown show! Time to fire all the politicians in Washington. To your point about the majority, I would have to disagree. If the majority wanted the ACA they would not have elected so many republicans to the House in the last election. I am not sure there is any such thing as a majority any more. Too many people with too many different opinions not wanting to work together for the greater good.

Kahlotus
Kahlotus

One could also argue that if the majority really didn't wan the ACA they wouldn't have reelected Obama. But they did, right, wrong or otherwise. BTW, Republicans were elected in large numbers to the house in 2010, not the last election in 2012.

johnny Dollar
johnny Dollar

You are confused and misinformed onemontana.........the time to "Fire" the politicians was last year. Yep.....that is when you could have fired Barack O'Bama and Rubber Stamp man Jon Tester, the joke of the senate.

Now is the time to do a little homework for NEXT years senate elections.......we know that Senator Baucus is finally stepping aside (After helping to create Obamacare, then cowardly calling it a "Trainwreck" this year without fixing a single problem).

Of course.....you could do yourself a big favor and help push out uber-progressive John Engen.......a smart man like him really needs to be back in the booming private sector.

js350454
js350454

Flat Out Wrong! If the majority had not wanted the ACA they would have elected Romney who ran on repealing the law. Romney lost by a large margin consisting of almost 5 million votes. The majority reelected Obama, we reelected a democratically controlled Senate and actually voted in the majority for democrats in the house, but due to republican gerrymandering, lost. The majority of our great nation leans left and wants affordable care.

johnny Dollar
johnny Dollar

Nope....that is patently false. It was Obama's election to lose......and there was nothing compelling to get voters to elect a a new president.

By the way.....surely you notice Obama and ALL the democrats, such as Testor, NEVER mentioned Obamacare when running for re-election.....why is that?

Don't be anyone's fool.......the reason Obamacare was pushed out to 2014 was so that those up for re-election could not be harmed by the obvious calamity's Ocare has and will cause.

BTW.....did you get you "Exemption" for 2014 like BIG business did?

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